This post may contain spoilers. Read at your own discretion.
Is it really almost over?
Since the release of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” back in 2001, I’ve watched every single “Harry Potter” film without fail. I’ve made sure of that fact. Granted, for most of them, I only make the effort to watch the film when it’s long past their due date, but that is more indicative of my revulsion to large crowds rather than a complacent attitude towards J.K. Rowling’s epic story.
Personally, I was glad the film adaptation of the seventh and final book had been split into two films. While it does not lessen the pain of having to bid farewell to such a brilliant series from flagrantly appearing in popular media ever again, it does provide a longer timeframe in which to establish the separation. Indeed, that feeling is apparent, because the experience of watching the film was bittersweet.
I have witnessed the entire “Harry Potter” cast embody their characters so well that the line between the role they play and who they are is blurred. This is especially true for the younger members of the cast, who have grown up in full view of the public eye. The transformation from fidgety children to actors of varying calibre can easily be detected in this series alone — a potential pièce de résistance, if you will. However, I sincerely hope that long after the last film is taken out of the cinemas all over the world, these actors can grow beyond their witching and wizarding roles, and still create magic beyond the bounds of Hogwarts.
The first part of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” opens with scenes of heartbreak and tension. Hermione Granger (played by Emma Watson) looks sorrowfully around her room and is briefly interrupted by her mother, who calls her down for tea. She quietly proceeds downstairs to her parents, and is greeted by their backs and their whispered but excited discussion. They do not notice her. Hermione then lifts her wand, and with a barely audible shakiness in her voice, softly says, “Obliviate.”. Slowly, all traces of her disappear from family photographs and from her parents’ memories.
In the Weasley household, Ron (played by Rupert Grint) stands vigilantly outside the Burrow. His concentration is shifted briefly when his mother, Molly (played by Julie Walters), calls him for dinner. He responds appropriately, but never breaks his focus from the night sky. Lastly, Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe) looks out the windows from an upstairs room in his house, as his uncle Vernon (played by Richard Griffiths) and cousin Dudley (played by Harry Melling) leave their home in haste to search for a safer place to stay. As soon as Harry’s relatives are out of sight, he walks around the now empty house, and looks over the impressions he has imprinted in it. Then, there is a knock on the door. His friends, on the other side of the door, greet him with much enthusiasm, but the festivities quickly die down, because of the urgent need to move Harry to an undisclosed location for his safety. With Lord Voldemort (played by the amazing Ralph Fiennes) strong and actively plotting Harry’s demise, Harry is in grave danger.
The trio make the decision to defer their final year in Hogwarts in order to hunt down and destroy the Horcruxes, which are key to defeating Voldemort. It is a dangerous mission, and everyone involved are gravely risking their lives. The initial move out of the Dursley home at Pivet Drive would require the use of the Polyjuice Potion to create various decoys to confuse any forces who would follow them. Unfortunately, Voldemort detects the flying convoy. Though he does not succeed in killing Harry with the wand he borrows from Lucius Malfoy (played by Jason Isaacs), it results in the deaths of Hedwig and Mad-Eye Moody (played by Brendan Gleeson). It also seriously injures George Weasley (played by Oliver Phelps), underlining the magnitude of the risk involved.
Rufus Scrimgeour (played by Bill Nighy) goes to the Harry, Ron, and Hermione, to read and present the items stated in Albus Dumbledore’s last will and testament. Afterwards, the group enjoy one last collective moment of happiness and togetherness during the wedding of Bill Weasley (played by Domhnall Gleeson) and Fleur Delacour (played by Clèmence Poèsy). Harry indulges in a conversation, where he learns about a historian named Bathilda Bagshot, and unsettling facts about his late mentor. Even then, the occasion would be disrupted by Death Eaters, prompting the trio to commence their search for the remaining Horcruxes earlier than scheduled. After disapparating to a part of London special to Hermione and her parents, they reach No. 12 Grimmauld Place, but not after a brief encounter with Death Eaters in disguise in a London cafè. They rapidly locate the next Horcrux in the guise of three people working in the Ministry, and they retrieve it from a stupefied Dolores Umbridge (played by Imelda Staunton).
Harry, Ron, and Hermione escape to a forest, and Hermione puts a protective curse over their shelter. They sleep in a tent, which is mobile enough to for easy transportation, if they need to re-locate for their safety. But, they underestimate the power of the Horcrux they are holding, and confront their paranoid thoughts. This causes numerous but temporary rifts in their friendship. In fact, Ron temporarily leaves the safety of their hiding place after being overwhelmed with the idea that Hermione prefers Harry over him. The absence of Ron are especially lonely for Harry and Hermione, who try to comfort each other. Hermione nurses her broken heart over Ron’s departure, and Harry breaks down when he finds his parents’ headstone during a visit to Godric’s Hollow. When Ron returns, he destroys the Horcrux with Godric Gyrffindor’s sword, when his own greatest fear manifests itself in smoke form.
With the trio victorious over their recent quarrels, they continue to set forth on their mission. After visiting Xenophilius Lovegood (played by Rhys Ifans) over a particular symbol they have constantly seen in their journey thus far, they move closer to being found by those searching to kill them, and having to fight the ultimate battle of their lives.
“The Tale of the Three Brothers” Animation
The film itself, by and large, is a visual feast with its melancholically beautiful cinematography and a storyline darker than usual for “Harry Potter”. However, I was hypnotised by the animation done for “The Tale of the Three Brothers”. A fairy tale popular in the magical world — and included in The Tales of Beedle the Bard — Swiss animation director Ben Hibon breathes life into this amazing story.
The characters portrayed in the three-minute sequence are wispy and take on the screen like experienced dancers. Hibon’s animation is known for multi-layered aesthetics, fluidly moving characters drawn in extraordinary detail, and an understanding of space so acute he bends the dimensions. His contribution to the final “Harry Potter” film can be likened to the surreal works of one of my favourite artists, British all-around creative, Dave McKean, who incidentally had some involvement in the previous “Harry Potter” films.
It is clear the actors behind central characters have matured physically and in their career, and the film does not disappoint. Cinematographically darker than most of the “Harry Potter” films, there are generous helpings of beauty in the form of landscape scenery that depict the places the trio choose to seek refuge. Coming as it is from someone who requires alone time on a regular basis, those pockets of nature look like wonderful locations to re-group — provided there are no Death Eaters in the vicinity, of course.
Allow me to indulge in character chemistry. There were some discrepancies between certain chemistries and their portrayal in the film. The on-screen romance between Ginny Weasley (played by Bonnie Wright) and Harry is far too mechanical to believe, even with their lingering kiss in the kitchen of the Burrow. The chemistry between Ron and Hermione is more believable, with Ron being quite the charmer in their eventual romance.
However, the chemistry between Harry and Hermione, though platonic, speaks much more than what is shown on the surface. Harry and Hermione’s slow dance to “O Children” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds — a dance initiated by Harry to cheer Hermione up over the Ron’s temporary departure (and artistic license employed on the part of director David Yates) — is such an endearing scene and one of my favourites. The scene is appropriate titillation for those partial to a Harry and Hermione romantic pairing. Brilliant song, too.
On the other hand, I would like to unsee the smokey manifestation of Ron’s greatest fear. While I can readily entertain the idea of romance between Harry and Hermione, I felt like the overprotective parent who just learnt their child started dating. Their tonsil hockey scene is just, just… no.
The cliff-hanger ending is such a tease, though. I was momentarily irritated by it. But it was quickly tapered by my generally positive sentiment towards the film as a whole.
The first part of the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” two-part film is wonderful and gripping. There are some scenes startling enough to make an adult jump from their seat, and other scenes tender enough to remind the hardest of hearts about the gift of friendship. It is the deepest and darkest “Harry Potter” film to date. Fan or not, it is an apt year-closing piece for the film industry.